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The Carchive: The Renault Magnum

Chris Haining March 13, 2014 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 10 Comments


Yeah. It’s a hulking great big lorry. Because awesome. Welcome to The Carchive, where original manufacturer literature pertaining to ANY vehicle is hauled out of the dripping, dank caverns of history and left to dry in the breeze.

Today we’re going French, and we’re going Big. Think this something yummy to eat + 3.14159 = Tom Selleck in a 308GTS.

“Innovation means nothing if you don’t get any benefit”

This is, of course, a brochure for a commercial vehicle. A lorry. A machine for making profit with. As a result, the publication is somewhat straight-talking and speaks little of lifestyle, image or excitement. Usually, items from The Carchive are easy to pick snarky holes in, but not this time around. It’s still a pretty interesting document besides all that, though.

The Renault Magnum first scared the bejeezus out of people on Europe’s roads back in 1990. Its sheer height and road presence made for an intimidating, and alien sight never experienced before. This brochure dates from twelve years later, long before which the novelty of the styling had rather worn off. Renault would need to work hard to keep people interested.

“A warm welcome awaits you”

It was the living accommodation that benefited most from the exuberance of the exterior. The bluff,  cliff-like stem made for a remarkably tall interior volume, indeed a six-footer (by which I mean in height, not quantity of feet) could walk around the cabin without recourse to stooping. Or, thanks to the flat floor, much in the way of hobbling or hopping.

There was versatility, too. There was a high bunk and, optionally, a low one or a chair and bunk combo, and the option of replacing the co-pilot’s perch with a storage chest. There was a fridge, lamps galore and a good, infra-red remote-controlled sound system. It may not have been grotesquely indulgent in the best quilted leather and wood tradition of American Semis, but it made for a comfortable retreat at the end of a long jaunt.

“We have injected many qualities into our 12 litre engine”

The engines of the year 2002 Magnum were all based on the same 12-litre, twin-head, 24valve six. Up to 480 hp could be called upon, with the vast swept volume making 1400 lb.ft of torque available. But that was nothing especially out of the ordinary, and regular heavy-haulage prime movers are now breaching the 700hp barrier.

The final Magnum came off the production line in 2013, the Australian Mack version hardly ever getting started. It was kind of replaced by the “T” series for 2014. It looks nice enough, but seems to have stepped aside from the Magnum concept. Will it return? I’d love it to.

In fact, this would probably be one of two truck types I’d like to see make a return, the other being the Ford 9000 series cabovers.

What would be yours?

[All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Actually, looking at the Magnum, and then the Avantime and Vel Satis that came later, could it ever have been anything but a Renault?]

  • Van_Sarockin

    Those Euro-semis are very impressive. They're completely fixated on packaging efficiency of the cab, so they can maximize trailer length and capacity. It's been a while, but that interior is nicer than any US semi I've ever been in. BTW, it's leatherette, not leather in those trucks. But 80% of driving comfort will come from the quality of the vertical suspension of the seats.

  • Sjalabais

    When the Magnum came out, I was a little boy who bought a truck magazine once a month. The Renault was impressive, futuristic, brilliant. In the beginning, it appeared to have been a commercial success also. In the end, Volvo swallowed Renault Trucks – which is an odd hiccup in automobile history, because Renault very nearly was to buy Volvo in 1990. The deal fell through in the last minute.

    I've linked to before, and do it again: This is a nice roundup of European long distance lorries, and there shall be no doubt as to what is my favourite.

    [youtube BmOSS3r3Vps youtube]

  • craigsu

    Ah, yes, Jezza's choice in the Top Gear Lorry Challenge from Season 12. Of course, his was modified to resemble a giant Robocop head.
    [youtube YtTOQSRMRcM youtube]

  • I.R. Bigglesworth

    The Magnum has always had a presence not many trucks have and it's instantly recognizable. But I'm partial to Volvos.
    <img src="; </img>

    The new MB Actros is pretty cool though; it reminds me of a Transformer for some reason..
    <img src="; width="600" </img>

  • wunno sev

    why is 700hp now a thing when 480hp was once sufficient?

    the passenger car market is subject to the whims of those who invariably demand more power even though they're just gonna use it to sit in traffic. i would assume the truck market was more based in what will make a profit, and given that the load probably makes up the bulk (so to speak) of the truck's laden weight (i guess i could be wrong about that), one would assume the bloat that's hit passenger cars wouldn't apply the same way to semis.

    am i missing something? why would truck manufacturers put that modern efficiency towards more power rather than better economy?

    • I.R. Bigglesworth

      700hp and a million torques is nice when your schlepping 50 tons up a steep hill. It allows you to keep to the speed limit. This summer in Norway I was stuck behind trucks driving up steep hills at what seemed like walking pace for tens of miles.. often with no chance of passing.

      • Sjalabais

        When I moved to Norway ten years ago, I was stunned at how many FH16 and Scania V8 dominated the roads here. In Germany, the power-revealing tags usually started with a 4. In Norway, the 6 was definitely most common in long distance transport. That has changed over the last decade. With more open regulation, a lot more foreign companies do the trucking now, and that includes a solid number of Eastern European used-up and underpowered DAF, MAN and Mercedes*. Truck and trailer are not often from the same country, but following a semi around these parts, it is usually quite easy to understand what is pulling the load. A Norwegian setup will not slow down on a 10% grade and it will make a gorgeous, powerful noise while pulling that off.

        *A lot of them . It's a scandal – and it moves focus from the given number of Norwegian trucks that aren't safe for the road either. Everybody just assumes "it's the foreigners"…not good.

        <img src="; width="600">
        <img src="; width="600">

        • I.R. Bigglesworth

          We don't have any mountains to speak of in this god forsaken country so I'm rarely stuck behind a truck, but we do have plenty of Latvian, Ukrainian, Russian, Estonian and probably Bulgarian trucks clogging up the roads. Usually driving for a Finnish company and in shitty condition. Pretty much the only time I'm stuck behind them is when there's a huge convoy of Russian car transporters driving on the highway… It's nearly impossible to pass a 200m long convoy without a million billion horsepowers and a chrystal ball to predict oncoming traffic, and even then it's borderline suicidal because they could start passing each other at any moment.

          This video was a "big hit" at work when it happened… you could say that I'm sort of involved with the Finnish branch of the company doing the towing. Which did nothing wrong btw, it was the truck being towed that went too close to the edge. "What the fuck did you do here?!?!"

          [youtube 0Q-07UFkz_E youtube]

  • dukeisduke

    Can you fit a pickup bed on back?

    • Manic_King

      Sure you can, something like Volvo FM can be box truck so why not…..

      <img src="; width="671">